The Nelson-Atkins Presents
A Frame of Mind

A Frame of Mind takes a hard look at race in America through the lens of one art museum.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art sits at a crossroads: in the middle of Kansas City, in the middle of the country, and in the middle of America’s shifting cultural landscape. We’re working through the slow and sometimes messy change of a big museum asking what it can be and whose stories it tells. Along the way, host Glenn North meets brilliant Black and Native artists and thinkers in Kansas City who help us see through their eyes.

Episode Four

Episode Five

Discussion Prompts

This discussion guide invites adults, educators, and older students to have a conversation about the relationships between race, museums, art, and cities. 

The podcast A Frame of Mind takes a hard look at race in America through the lens of the Nelson-Atkins and its relationship to Kansas City. But the themes and issues the podcast explores about the power of looking, representation, and how urban planning and monuments in public space impact how we see each other are relevant to any museum, any city, and any place of work or learning. We hope you use this guide to reflect on the ideas in A Frame of Mind and make connections to your own experience. 

Episode 1: Something’s in the Air

What associations does the Nelson-Atkins (or an art museum in your community) have for you? What memories or experiences do you have of that place? Compare your responses with those of a conversation partner – are theirs the same or different? Why might that be? 

Think about the individuals you heard from or about in this episode who seemed to hold positions of power. What kinds of power did they wield? How did Glenn’s first experience with the Nelson-Atkins reveal power systems at play?  

Glenn notes, “Spectating is not doing the work.” But, he also says there’s power in observing to understand the history and systems at play. What do you think? What role might observation and reflection play in the work for racial justice? 

Episode 2: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Think of a place that you love in your city. What is it that appeals to you about that place? Are there places you would like to go but feel you wouldn’t be welcome there? 

In this episode, Glenn talks about his family’s tradition of taking a “Sunday Drive” through Kansas City. What are traditions within your community that you feel connected to? How might race or identity have shaped those traditions?  

What was your reaction to hearing about J.C. Nichols and the history of racially exclusionary housing covenants? 

Early in the episode, we hear reference to the City Beautiful Movement, and Glenn closes with a poem that expresses his own notion of a “city beautiful.” What makes for a beautiful city in your mind? 

Episode 3: First You Have to See It

Glenn’s impression of the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins differs greatly from the reaction of A’aninin artist Mona Cliff. How might your identity or life experiences affect the way you perceive a particular place? 

Where do your ideas about Native American histories and cultures come from?  

Can you think of a time that a piece of art, music, or other media felt like it was “telling your story” – that you felt represented? Have you ever seen your identity or culture represented inaccurately in art or media? What did that feel like? 

What do you think should happen to racist monuments like the Keck reliefs? How can communities acknowledge the difficult parts of history without perpetuating the harm caused by their display?  

Episode 4: Under Construction

Glenn is intrigued by the photograph of unnamed workers who built the Nelson-Atkins. Think about other stories that might be outside our “official” record of history. What might change about our understanding of the world if we knew those kinds of stories? 

Who are the “Charlie Parkers” of your community that you might not know about? How might you get to know aspects of local culture and history that are unfamiliar to you? If you’re local to Kansas City, check out historian Erik Stafford’s bus tour, the American Jazz Museum, the Black Archives of Mid-America, or the Mattie Rhodes Center to learn more about local history through the lens of communities of color.  

How can museums and other cultural institutions change the perception that they are “for” some people but not others? 

What was your reaction to hearing about Chiluba Musonda’s experience with a white visitor in the 30 Americans exhibition? 

Episode 5: The Labyrinth

Glenn talks about the grey area between inclusion and cultural appropriation. Where have you seen examples of that tension at play?  

Glenn refers to the combination of racial trauma and cognitive dissonance around race in America as “The Crazy.” Does this resonate with you? In what ways have you experienced “The Crazy” in your own life or seen it in the world around you? 

What makes you hopeful about the future of your community? Can you think of an event, place, or situation that is emblematic of racial progress, like seeing the 2Step at the museum’s Juneteenth celebration was for Glenn?  


A Frame of Mind is the podcast of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. This series was produced and co-written by Glenn North and Christine Murray, with support from Duaa Mohamed. Editing and sound design by Brandi Howell. Interview recording by Tim Harte. Studio engineering by Simpson Sound Lab. Fact checking by Kate Carpenter. Theme music by The Black Creatures. Additional music by Eclipse. Cover art by Two Tone Press.

Guests include De Barker, Wanda Battle, Alvin Brooks, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, Mona Cliff, Lucky Garcia, Justin Ikerionwu, Alex Kimball Williams, Muenfua Lewis, Kreshaun McKinney, Chiluba Musonda, Makeda Peterson, Sonié Ruffin, Erik Stafford, Alex Ponca Stock, Rodney Thompson, Vi Tran, Angel Tucker, and Jake Wagner, with Linda Battle, Tara Laver, Rachel Nicholson, and Julián Zugazagoitia.

Special thanks to advisory group members Jimmy Beason II, José Faus, Allan Gray, Ron Jones, and Nia Richardson.

Produced in partnership with Jocelyn Edens and Kim Masteller, with production support from Anne Manning, Rachel Nicholson, Brent Bellew and the Nelson-Atkins Teen Council.

​​This podcast is produced with generous support from Bank of America, N.A., Trustee of the John W. and Effie E. Speas Memorial Trust.

A note on the theme music from The Black Creatures: It begins with slow vocals at a strict and even rhythm. They’re tradition, not rocking the boat. Then a jazz groove swings in, with piano and saxophone dancing over the top, sometimes with each other, sometimes doing their own thing. They’re in a dialogue, changing and growing with each other, while the vocals keep pushing and pulling forward. As for percussion: drums go boom.